The Alaska State Ferry: Through the Inside Passage
Load that pick-up with supplies, because prices for everything in Alaska run high. Speaking of “high,” a retail marijuana shop is open for business right outside of our motel in Bellingham, Washington not far from the ferry terminal.
Workers quickly point out that bringing Washington weed out of state is illegal, even though we’re traveling to another “weed legal” state.
Mare and I plan to spend the summer volunteering as caretakers for the Bald Eagle Preserve in Haines, Alaska. We travel a lot and rarely visit a place more than once, but this will mark our third summer here. Haines is that special. Getting there is fun also.
After a four-hour wait at the terminal, where police dogs sniff vehicles, we drive onto the ship for an elevator ride to the second floor. Mare secures two lounge chairs up top in the solarium, where we’ll sleep for three nights under heat lamps.
You can also pitch a tent, using duct tape instead of spikes. Cabins are available, but sell-out fast. We prefer the panoramic view and fresh air outside. Public showers and bathrooms are free.
Goodbye beautiful Bellingham! Rare sunshine and clear skies follow us the entire cruise up the Alaska Marine Highway.
Except for a foggy morning in Ketchikan, the first stop in 38 hours.
Dogs cannot wait to get out of cars and hit the grass, as most large dogs “hold it” for all that time. On a previous trip, we laughed when our dog Jack took a world class, record pee here. Unfortunately, Jack is no longer with us. We miss traveling with him, but know that he would not miss this ferry ride.
I do my best to ignore the ladies next to me, as they constantly talk…to everybody, forever, except for me. Don’t intend to be rude, just don’t want to get stuck yakking for three days. It’s the first time that I have faked reading a book!
The ferry has a cafeteria and restaurant, but we bring our own healthy fare. Okay, we sneak some beers from the cooler, without causing a ruckus.
Relax. Cruise past remote island towns and a few lighthouses. This clear day reveals fishing villages along shores of the Wrangell Narrows. Typically, they’re cloaked in fog. The inside passage route often resembles a river.
Glaciers divide mountains the farther north we travel.
Nearing Haines, we get excited when spotting waterfalls from Rainbow Glacier, and our friends Dale and Rennie’s cabin in the woods below.
We used to view this glacier from our cabin in Chilkat State Park, where we volunteered as campground hosts for two straight years. Living without running water and electricity proves that you don’t need as much as you think.
We disembark the ferry and retrieve keys for a different cabin from Alaska State Parks. This one has electricity! Next stop, the Haines Brewery where it’s growler time. Paul, the proprietor recognizes us from past years. “I didn’t realize you guys were gone so long,” he says with a smile. We share some excellent craft beer (Spruce Tip and Lookout Stout) with good friend Shannon, who greets us.
Our cabin sits on the braided Chilkat River. In the fall, this river provides a final salmon run on the North American Continent.
Up to 5,000 bald eagles shall convene here to fatten-up for winter. Like the salmon and the eagles, we have returned to Haines. It feels like home, except that Jack isn’t here. Ron Mitchell